Read Harder Challenge : 2017


So, I’ve long been a devotee of the “All the Books” podcast from BookRiot (Rebecca and Liberty’s book reviews are EVERYTHING), and when they mentioned the 2017 Read Harder challenge, I knew I had to check it out!

In short: do 24 reading tasks over the course of the year. Books may count for multiple tasks, or you can read one book per task. I don’t know how I’ll do, but I’m eager to try it out – and I’m already on my way!

How about you – any good reading challenges you’ve set for this year?

(My other personal goal is to try and get back to reading 150+ books read a year – I’ve been slacking the last couple of years….)


  1. Read a book about sports.
  2. Read a debut novel. (Hey Harry, Hey Matilda by Rachel Hulin)
  3. Read a book about books.
  4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author.
  5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative. (Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce)
  6. Read an all-ages comic.
  7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950.
  8. Read a travel memoir.
  9. Read a book you’ve read before.
  10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location. (The Boy is Back by Meg Cabot)
  11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location.
  12. Read a fantasy novel.
  13. Read a nonfiction book about technology.
  14. Read a book about war.
  15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+. (If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo)
  16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged.
  17. Read a classic by an author of color.
  18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead.
  19. Read a book in which the character of color goes on a spiritual journey.
  20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel. (After the Flood by Alexis Hall)
  21. Read a book published by a micropress.
  22. Read a collection of stories by a woman.
  23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love.
  24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color.

New Year, New Reviews

January has *flown* by, friends, don’t you agree? Johnna has been gearing up to go back to school after spending some days in FRANCE, the lucky duck, and Marissa has been getting back into the work swing after her Christmas holiday in Vegas. And of course… there have been books. Here’s the latest…


The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson was just a hypnotic read. The prose was just so, so good and I got pulled into the story completely. Each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective (and y’all know I am HERE for that), and in a nutshell, is about students in high school near San Francisco – from the newly minted English teacher to the jock to the quiet, shy girl, everyone takes a turn in bringing the story to fruition. Hard to categorize, but so easy to recommend – check this one out!

Spaceman by Mike Massimino is the astronaut’s memoir, and what a fun, fascinating read! Told in a completely conversational style, this is all about Massimino’s unlikely journey from Long Island to the space shuttle, and it’s just so engaging, interesting, and fun! I’m a space nerd, so this is totally my wheelhouse, but I think anyone with even a vague interest in our space program would dig this easy memoir.

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson was hotly anticipated by those of us at the library that devoured his previous work, The Kind Worth Killing. This was another suspenseful read with alternating points of view (and not all of them reliable), but I found the writing a bit more… draggy than the other novel. LOTS of exposition, lots of just napping/reading/wandering around, without the propulsion of TKWK… but I still totally got into it. Perfect for suspense fans!

I also read Today Will Be Different by Maria Stemple… yes, I chuckled at some points, but mostly I wondered why her novels have been hailed as the second coming of literature. I found it disjointed, odd, unsympathetic in a lot of ways, and just… not my jam. Wrong book, wrong time?

Unconventional Christmas

So, for reasons that don’t bear repeating, my friend Jen and I found ourselves at loose ends, trying to figure out how to separately celebrate Christmas when the traditions we were used to were changing this year.

So, we put our heads together and decided a girls trip was in order.

And where should a couple of girls go for the most extravagant, over -the-top holiday possible on a budget?


(If you haven’t done Vegas at Christmas, you should! So much decorating!)

Jen had never ventured to the big city (I’ve actually been five times. No, I’m not a compulsive gambler…), so we eagerly jetted off and I couldn’t wait to show her around all the glitz and immensity of Vegas. We stayed at the Linq, right on the center strip (great hotel, and perfect location!) – it was great!

We put miles and miles on our shoes exploring every casino… meeting dolphins and big kitties, eyeing sharks and stingrays… hitting the penny slots (and winning!)… exploring and spending time in the Venetian, including a leisurely couple of lunches in St. Mark’s Square (’ve.had.outside.Italy.)… admiring the Bellagio Conservatory… visiting the Atomic Test Museum… and I even put my brave girl pants and accompanied Jen to the top of the Eiffel Tower! What an amazing experience!

We  ate well, walked much, gambled some, and gawked a ton, and overall had a great time!


Until next time… thanks, Las Vegas!

First Reviews of the New Year

I’m slowly digging myself out of my major, major reading slump, so let’s see what’s been on the nightstand so far in 2017…


The Boy is Back by Meg Cabot is just so… Meg Cabot. And I love it. 🙂 He’s a pro golfer, she’s a professional organizer, and they were hot and heavy back in high school… so the sparks are gonna fly when he comes back home, right? Right. *grin* I LOVED all the (southern) Indiana references, all the characters, and of course, I’m a sucker for an episotlary novel, so this one rang all my bells. Can’t wait for the next adult title to cross my desk!

Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce was my Book of the Month club pick (because, hello, Liberty recommended it), but it was either too weird for me, or was wrong book at the wrong time, because I think I spent most of the time with my forehead wrinkled reading it. It sounded like an interesting premise – Japanese-American girl kills classmate and is sent away – but ended up really stilted and emotionless and filled with completely unsympathetic characters. There was literally no one I was rooting for. If I had to do it again, I’d take a pass on this one…

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo is such a great young adult novel for anyone going through, or trying to understand, what it means to be a transgender teen. Amanda used to be Andrew, and after a year off, is going to a new high school, and is trying to navigate her new identity, her attraction to a fellow classmate, and long-standing family tensions. I thought this was sensitive, thoughtful, and tugged at the heartstrings. Recommended!

I also read I Do It With the Lights On, Whitney Way Thore‘s new memoir (much more thoughtful and serious than I anticipated), as well as a new short from Gillian Flynn, The Grownup. I loved the irrerverance and twists of it, but I want to know what the resolution is! *whines*


Another Season Passes….

As we begged off previously, the last couple of months have just flown by: the holidays, travels, work, school, and everything in between. Here’s what I’ve been up to…

Seeing James Patterson speak at a library conference… walking in our city’s holiday parade (The antlers LIT UP. It was everything.)… speechifying at a local fundraiser… running a wine pull to make money to give away for grant projects… watching Gilmore Girls with Johnna… rockin’ some new glasses… celebrating the holidays (and Rogue One!)… training the most amazing Relay rockstars in the state… misty mornings… and of course, ringing in 2017 with Johnna! I miss my bestie – we need to stop being so busy, darn it!

How’s your winter been, friends?



2016 Reading Roundup


Per tradition, it’s time for my annual wrap-up of all the books I read in 2016. Here’s how I did this past year…

Number of books read in 2016: 133 titles
Number of books read in 2015 (for comparison): 144 titles
Average of books read per month: 11 books
Average of books read per week: 2.5 books
Daily average: 1 book read every 2.7 days
Percent of fiction read: 82%
Percent of nonfiction read: 18%
Number of YA books read: 9
Number of audiobooks read: 8
Number of books read on the Kindle: 23

And now, for the best books of the year (in my humble opinion, of course!), in author alphabetical order…
Byrne, Kerrigan. The Hunter. F.
Center, Katherine. Happiness for Beginners. F.
Greenwood, Bryn. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. F.
Hoffman, Alice. Faithful. F.
Kalanithi, Paul. When Breath Becomes Air. NF.
Kells, Claire. Girl Underwater. F.
Macintosh, Clare. I Let You Go. F.
Roach, Mary. Packing for Mars. NF, K.
Sepetys, Ruta. Salt to the Sea. F.
Sittenfeld, Curtis. Eligible. F.
Tarkington, Ed. Only Love Can Break Your Heart. F.
Yoon, Nicola. The Sun is Also a Star. F.
(By a mile, the best book overall was All The Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood. I STILL think about that book and the characters…)
What were your favorite reads this year that I should add to my TBR list?

Fiction, Fiction, Fiction…

Okay, let’s do this – time for a big, honkin’ fiction roundup!


13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad took my breath away. Searing and smart, heartbreaking and relatable, this is a novel told in separate stories at various periods of Lizzie’s life. She unapologetically tackles Lizzie’s struggles with feeling valued in a sexual relationship, her relationship with food, and even her husband’s thoughts when she finally loses weight – and wrenches tighter and tighter control over herself. My heart broke for Lizzie, in so many ways.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch is just mind-f$&%ingly weird, but in a good way. 🙂 Jason Dessen is just living his life until he’s abducted and wakes up… elsewhere. A place where his wife isn’t his wife, his life isn’t his life… so how does he go about getting it back? Or does he even want it back? Warped and weird, this is filled with a great blend of physics and peril, emotion and adventure. I dug it!

Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare is a thumbs up, because, hello. TESSA DARE. I love her Regency romances, and this is another great one! WHO had a naughty tryst in the library? It wasn’t Charlotte, but the rumors are swirling, and just how is she going to extricate herself? Lord Granville has an idea… another great entry in the Castles Ever After series!

The Widowmaker by Paul Doiron is the latest entry in his Mike Bowditch series, featuring the Maine game warden. I really like the setting of this mystery series, and Mike is an approachable everyman character that still has a few demons and quirks to keep him interesting. Recommended if you dig the series already!

Faithful by Alice Hoffman filled my bucket, and I needed it after being in a reading rut. This felt very much like Kitchens of the Great Midwest to me… though we stuck with only one character, the tone and need for the reader to read between the lines, to follow the timeline and storyline felt familiar – in a great way. Shelby is a damaged, seemingly hateful character that ends up endearing and enduring. I eagerly turned every page, and was truly sad when it was over.

Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover was receptive. I’ve been pretty openly critical of Hoover’s writing and plots (the deaf songwriter one comes to mind…), but this one was actually pretty good! Steamy scenes and ratcheted emotions – I recommend it!

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly came with a lot of baggage for me… EVERYONE has been recommending it to me, pushing me to read it, so when I finally got to it, I had this hugely inflated sense of the book. Having said that, it was a fantastic novel, but not the bestest-ever, as I was braced for. In short, Holocaust, World War II, France, three women, three stories… well written and researched, compelling and emotional. I’m yet to hear of someone reading this who didn’t love it…

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult should have me jumping up and down – new Jodi Picoult! We always want new Jodi Picoult! But this one… this one didn’t ring my bell. Dealing with issues of race, hatred, babies, and of course, a court case, it was just hard to read, hard to relate to, but raised a lot of questions amongst though of us who had read it at the same time. Decidedly not my favorite Picoult, but as always… thought provoking.

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman was tailor written for those of us of a “certain age”, who lived through the era of Kurt Cobain’s suicide and Doc Martens. In 1991, two girls and a boy go into the woods… but only two come out. This is a story of female friendship, manipulation, lust, love, and was it murder? Or suicide? Warped and weird, but I couldn’t put it down…

And of course, I have a few bonus titles I’ve read… Good as Gone by Amy Gentry was a odd, disjoined mystery (but good!)… Our Little Secret by Jenna Ellis I’m sure was supposed to be sexy and salacious but was just plain silly… The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan had surprising heart… A Gentleman Never Tells by Eloisa James was another winner (I love her!)… and The Obsession by Nora Roberts was good, too long to my mind, but good.

And there you have it! Whew! Let’s start 2017 fresh now, shall we?!